Last week I was overcome with anxiety. As hundreds of rockets descended into civilian populations in southern and central Israel, I lay restlessly in my safe bed in Student Village II — 6,000 miles away from physical danger. Yet my country was under attack, and the pain felt very near. Each rocket fired was a personal attack on my family in Tel Aviv; on my dozens of friends serving in the Israel Defense Forces; on the Jewish people.
What was I to do but support my country in its acts of self-defense? I stuck an Israeli flag in my backpack and walked down Commonwealth Avenue. I attended Students for Justice in Palestine’s rally to dance and sing and show the world that Israel’s spirit will never die.
To my shock, some people called me a “racist.” I suppose they believed I was singing and dancing to support apartheid, ethnic cleansing and the genocide of the Palestinian people. But the opposite is true.
My dream is to see two sovereign states — an Israeli and Palestinian state — exist side by side, separated not by fences but by backyards. I believe that all human lives are equal.
But the harsh reality is that Hamas, the elected governing body in Gaza, is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state — and will even put its own civilians in harms way to do so. These are the facts.
In the context of this conflict, though, I am not writing as a critic, but as a person who has seen so much goodness sprout from the tiny, misunderstood country of Israel.
Before matriculating at Boston University, I volunteered, studied and traveled in Israel for nine months. During the first trimester, I worked at a foster home in a small town in Israel’s desert. It was there that I met and befriended two Palestinian children from Gaza. The two Israelis who owned the home had taken in these children for no other reason than to give them a safe home.
Such acts of kindness are not rarities. They are seen throughout Israel — in Hadassah Hospital, in the integrated school Yad B’Yad and in various other Israeli institutions. Unfortunately, these hopeful stories don’t make it through to mainstream media. When there’s no conflict — no blood — the world is silent.
And so nobody knows about Save A Child’s Heart, an Israeli nonprofit that performs free open heart surgery to Israeli, Palestinian and African children. But I’ve played with these recovering children. I’ve seen their parents weep tears of gratitude together.
Perhaps the world needs to see these tears to wake up and realize that Israel is so much more than a war-zone. It is a vibrant democracy in which Israeli-Arabs serve in the parliament, on the Supreme Court and in the foreign ministry. It is the only country in the Middle East that provides legal, anti-discrimination protection for its homosexual citizens. It is the brain behind cellphone technology, a spiritual hub for three monotheistic religions, and it is the homeland and refuge for the continuously persecuted Jewish people.
So whether my future places me in Israel or Boston, New York or San Francisco, I will continue to support Israel with justice, morality and faith as my guiding lights.
COM, CAS 2015